Pasta Soup with Potatoes and Pancetta

A white bowl filled with pasta soup with potatoes and pancetta on a linen cloth with a spoon resting on the edge of the bowl.

Many people would never associate pasta and potato, but in this case, you’re really going to have to trust me. This recipe has been in my family for more than 50 years, and considering that so far there’ve been two chefs in the family, it must be fantastico! Make sure you use a mealy potato like a russet. [Editor’s Note: The word “mealy” in conjunction with potatoes may, for some, have undesirable associations. Although in this recipe, mealy is actually quite coveted given the lovely richness and thickness it lends to the consistency of this soup.]–Gino D’Acampo

LC Like Bacon for Pancetta? Note

We’ve a wee caveat to share with anyone tempted to substitute bacon for pancetta in this pantry-minded recipe. While that swap works in some recipes, we don’t encourage trying it here. Pancetta’s sturdy texture and meatiness handily withstand being simmered in this soupy stew without becoming limpid and soggy. Sadly, the same can’t be said about bacon, which turns flabby. Save it for frying up in a pan.

Pasta Soup with Potatoes, Pancetta and Leeks

  • Quick Glance
  • (3)
  • 25 M
  • 45 M
  • Serves 6
5/5 - 3 reviews
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In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Sauté the leek and pancetta for about 3 minutes. Add the carrot and potato and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for another 2 minutes.

Pour in the stock, lower the heat, and simmer gently, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Add the chopped tomatoes and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the pasta and continue to cook over low heat, uncovered, stirring every 2 minutes, until the pasta is al dente, about 6 minutes.

When the pasta is cooked to your liking, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Immediately ladle the soup into bowls.

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Recipe Testers Reviews

I was actually surprised at just how much we liked this soup. It was extremely quick and easy to put together. Using top-quality ingredients, in a recipe where the ingredient list is not long, really made this dish taste fresh, clean, and pure.

I had questioned how the pancetta would cook by just sautéing it for 3 minutes with the leeks and then another 2 minutes with the potatoes. I use pancetta quite often, and usually cook the pancetta till it is brown or caramelized. I was concerned that I would not like the result, but wanted to try the recipe as written. This is another case of needing to have an open mind. The pancetta in the finished product was more like some very, very good ham which imparted great flavor to the broth.

I used a really good organic chicken broth that comes in a quart carton container that I keep around for when we do not have homemade stock.

Throwing the Parm in off the heat at the end really added to the wonderful taste and texture. The chopped canned tomatoes seemed like an afterthought. I don't know if it was mostly to add a touch of color, because that small amount of tomatoes in 2 quarts of stock, along with the vegetables, doesn't really make a difference in taste. However, the end result was so good, that I may just throw in just the 3 tablespoons when I make this again, and I will make it again.

The only change I made to the recipe, was throwing a piece of Parmesan rind in when I added the broth to the pot. We have a bag of Parmesan rinds in the freezer, and this seemed like a good time to use one. It was!

Excellent! This is a very simple recipe that is easy to follow with exceptional results.

I would caution the cook to go easy on the "salt to taste". Leave it a little bit lacking until after you add the parmesan cheese or you risk making it too salty.

I think that you could use Yukon gold or another less starchy potato for some texture without losing any taste. (Just a thought.)

If you're looking for a simple weeknight meal, this soup is a solid option as long as you don't mind doubling up on carbs! The best parts of the soup are the pieces of potato and pancetta. I used low-sodium chicken broth and the resulting soup was flavorful without becoming too salty.

We enjoyed making a dish with Italian flavors that doesn't necessarily rely on onion, garlic, and red chili pepper flakes. We did think that the tomatoes and leeks got lost in the final dish—those flavors weren't really evident compared with the broth, Parmesan cheese, and pancetta.

This soup had such depth of flavor with such humble ingredients. The smoky pancetta infuses the potatoes with a great flavor. I served this to a group of soup haters and each one of them had seconds. The recipe works exactly as written so no guess work. It comes together easily for a dinner after a busy day. This is a wonderful, delicious soup

Shells are my pasta of choice for soups, and they were perfect for this one. I used chicken stock in my soup. It produced a rich, silken broth with lots of flavor. Both the carrots and potatoes maintain just a enough bite and they do not disintegrate.

WOW... Not sure where to start. This was a nice, hearty, yet light soup that warmed up everyone's hearts tonight. Very easy to make and can so easily be adapted to ingredients you may have at home even though I followed it to the T. There is something about this soup that screams Italian.

We were 6 and still have leftovers for hubby to take some to work tomorrow.

I thought it was excellent when first served but within 15 minutes, the pasta had absorbed much of the broth. By the next day, I had to add 2 more cups of broth, and even more the third day (it makes a lot of soup!).

This soup had great flavor and consistency. I used bacon in place of pancetta but didn't like the fact that it didn't have enough time to crisp. Maybe pancetta would have reacted differently. Next time, I would cook the bacon separately, remove it, and then continue with the recipe.

Soup and pasta. What could be better? My family and I really liked the soup.

The instructions are easy to follow and the ingredients are not complicated. I used 3 cups of a low sodium chicken stock and 5 cups of water and an alphabet pasta. I didn't have a chance to get out to the store to get actual pancetta so I substituted a bacon I already on hand. I did think only 3 tablespoons of the tomatoes seemed chintzy so I added a couple more since they were big chunks. I think when I make this again I will either add the whole tin or dice a couple fresh tomatoes.

Also I think pancetta is probably the better way to go, the bacon is nice, but the pancetta would be firmer.

Just as a final note, the pasta absorbed most of the broth by the next morning and made a sort of pasta stew for lunch. A little fresh Parmesan and broth made for a tasty second meal.

A great, hearty, warming soup for a cold winter's night.

Since I already had chicken stock on hand I used that in place of the vegetable stock, but I'm sure that would have been just as good. I was able to find farfalline. I loved having both pasta and potato in the soup and enjoyed the flavor the Parmesan and leek lent the soup as well as the color and flavor of the carrot. Not sure how much impact 3 tablespoons of canned tomatoes gave the soup and next time I might just add the whole can, minus the juice, to save on waste.

I did use bacon instead of pancetta since it's more budget friendly and of course easier to find in our area.

Leftovers were just as good. I highly recommend eating with the suggested warm crusty bread as it went so well with the soup. I used toasted and lightly buttered Italian bread.


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  1. Country ham is a good substitute for cooked recipes calling for a dab of prosciutto or pancetta. It can’t be sliced elegantly like prosciutto and is saltier than pancetta, but it isn’t smoked and adds a good flavor. I think it would work in this soup. I am a long distance from a store with fine meats, and have learned to make do.

  2. I made this soup last night using Pancetta from my local friends at Corti Brothers. The flavor was marvelous and we thoroughly enjoyed it on its own for dinner on a rainy night. I do wish I had let the pancetta cook to a bit more of a crisp state and would do so next time.

    Also, I’m not sure if I added a bit too much pasta, but by day 2, the leftovers had transformed into a sort of a pasta dish rather than a soup. The pasta had sucked up all of the broth, as pasta is wont to do. Therefore, I might also reduce the amount of pasta next time for the sake of leftovers.

    1. Yes, Stacy, that pasta can suck up all the broth. I would try your suggestion of adding less pasta or have a few friends over and finish it in one sitting!

  3. I made this for dinner tonight and we all LOVED it. Went by the recipe except added a few more tablespoons of chopped tomatoes, a squirt of tomato paste (the tube kind), and a Parmesan rind. I weighed the dry pasta to make sure the amount was correct, but it did seem like there wasn’t enough broth for everything else that was left. Fortunately I used homemade chicken stock, so it was easy to add some to the broth after the fact and I’m sure the taste wasn’t altered. The other thing that was interesting was our spoons got pretty gummy about halfway through the bowlful of suop, apparently because of thePparmesan. But I’m not sure if it was because I simmered it with a rind or because of the grated Parmesan that was added at the end. It wasn’t a big deal—but I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that before. If it was because of the Parm at the end, I’m wondering if it could be because what I used was finely grated in the food processor rather than a more coarse grate/shred? Anyway, thanks to the previous reviews, I strained the broth from the other ingredients and so have two beautiful containers in my fridge right now, ready to be joined together in delicious matrimony for tomorrow’s lunch:) Thanks for another great recipe!

    1. Emilie, many thanks for taking the time to drop us a note. So pleased to hear that you like the soup. As for the spoon situation, it could be either or both reasons you suggest. I’ve experienced that with other soups when I’ve simmered them with a Parmesan rind and left the rind in until it was really gummy and had given up all its flavor. Anyone else have this experience? And Emilie, we look forward to hearing which recipe you make next….

      1. I already know which one I’m going to make next, Renee. The chocolate sour cream bundt cake. Tomorrow. It’s one of my go-to cakes (so easy…so chocolaty…so everything!!). I was thinking just tonight when I slurped my last spoonful of soup how that would be the perfect finish to the meal. Plus it just gets better the longer it sits!!

  4. What a wonderful soup, and so representative, too, of the cucina casalinga, home cooking, of Italy. I remember soups like this as a kid. When I’d see the brodo di pollo come out of the freezer and spy Mom’s big orange pot on the stove and smell the pancetta browning, I know there was zuppa in the future. It might have been pasta e fagioli, pasta e ceci, or any one of a number of these marvels, but it was always satisfying to both stomach and soul, and that kiss of tomato, so typical of Italy’s Mezzogiorno, always added just the right flavor note. Grazie per le memorie!

    1. It’s our pleasure, AdriBarr. Was worth it just to hear you reminisce about your Mom making zuppa…what a wonderful upbringing you had! Many thanks for sharing it with such enthusiasm and eloquence….

  5. Could you make this a non-meat soup (no pancetta) or would it just lose its flavor and specialness and I may as well not bother? Or would this be good without it? Thanks!

    1. Susan, the pancetta lends a complexity and depth of flavor to the soup that we really like. We haven’t tried it without it, so we can’t say for certain, although I think there’s sufficient oomph and goodness in the remaining ingredients to come together quite nicely even without the pork. Let us know what you think….

      1. Hi Susan. If you made this without the meat, then would you consider adding some dried herbs like thyme, oregano, and basil and finishing it off with some chopped fresh herbs like parsley or ones of your choice? Or you can make a bouquet garni of your favorite herbs and remove them before serving. You can even add some heat to it with dried or fresh chili peppers. Please let us know how you made your vegetarian version.

  6. Mike,

    if you don’t want to use American or Canadian bacon, you could try salt pork, smoked ham, smoked sausages, or proscuitto, if you have access to these.

    Please post what you used! thanks Sita

  7. I am one of those few people who is not a big fan of tomatoes—the flavor yes, the actual tomato no. This soups sounds delicious. Could I use tomato paste at some point in the recipe for the flavor substituting for the canned tomatoes?

    1. Hi Christine, I think that you could definitely tweak this recipe to your liking using tomato paste. Let us know how you made this soup “your own”.

  8. I don’t have access to pancetta but otherwise live in porcine paradise. What, other than bacon, would be a good substitute?

    1. Mike, we want to hear more about this porcine paradise of yours…! We haven’t tried it with anything else, so I can’t guarantee that this will still taste like a hug from an Italian nonna, I’m thinking a lesser amount of salt pork, which like pancetta is cured but not smoked, may work well. Just be mindful of how much salt you add to the soup. Or if you can get your hands on some thickly sliced prosciutto that’s not too expensive, that’d probably work wonders, too. Kindly let us know what you decide and how it goes….

  9. Such a fantastic soup. My whole family of five licked their lips, scraped the bowl and demanded a repeat asap. Cant be bad.

    1. Deb, that must have been so gratifying! Seconds on soup all around sounds like a job well done.

  10. I made this recently exactly as per the exact instructions and was rewarded with an extremely satisfying and flavourful soup. The soup now has a place in our regular roster of recipes. Thanks so much!

  11. Kudos to all!!
    Such a success!! Everyone loved the soup…
    I confess I was a little nervous about cooking the pancetta for 3 minutes so I cooked it for 4+ minutes along with the leek. I went to the butcher and asked for 9 ounces of pancetta and he gave me 14 ounces. He offered to recut but I thought to myself, you could never have too much pancetta.
    This recipe is a treasure. It was delicious!! I could see adding white beans or other ingredients, but I pretty much stayed with the ingredients as listed. I always keep the pasta separate from soup until serving as mentioned above. We all really loved it. I offered my son the leftover soup and he called me Sunday to say he was reheating and couldnt wait to have again. I made the pots de creme without straining. I have to say, this recipe is another treasure…I didnt really get or see any large bumps and I doubt that would have taken away from the taste of this fabulous dessert!!
    Kudos to you all…I am very grateful for all your comments!!

  12. I’d probably add (or sub the potatoes for) chickpeas but I love the simplicity of this dish. I would imagine the pancetta adds a lot to the dish. I think my son would even eat this up!

    1. Yeah, this is one of those recipes that seems to take really quite well to a little futzing and frumping and other sorts of swapping of ingredients…we hope your guy likes it as much as we do! Let us know how it goes, We Are Never Full. (What a swell name!)

    2. We Are Never Full, pancetta works wonders for almost everything, doesn’t it? It’s sort of a miracle food in my world. Let us know how you (and your son!) like the soup if you give it a try.

  13. This is very similar to Sopa Mexicana. Made pretty much the same way with or without add-ins. I will try your version, as it sounds very tasty.

  14. Thank you so much…Love all the support, ideas, and recipes (wonderful!) I received…I am new to this site but for sure will be back…Will let you know final choices and how dinner turned out…Esther

  15. My sincere thanks to you all…we are a family that loves to eat and leftovers are always enjoyed ! So this is what I am thinking …
    To welcome with wine and cheeses …
    Sit down to a Stuffed Artichoke … (breadcrumbs, oil, garlic, stems, s&p)
    Soup and salad and crusty bread … (fennel and orange salad sounds great or something similar … any suggestions ?)
    Dessert .. something light and simple (would love to make pots de creme but thinking it is a bit too heavy and too rich …
    Maybe a nice ice cream and/or sorbet with cookies …?
    Would love your thoughts …

    1. I agree about something light and refreshing for dessert. A gelato or sorbet with thin, crispy cookies, perhaps a gingersnap or lemon cookie to scoop the gelato up with. I have been on a lemon kick lately, and have been enjoying lemon pudding cakes as well as a lemon souffle. I made this not too long ago, and it was wonderful. Esther, you got me thinking about thin, crispy cookies. These are addictive. Although not exactly “light” they are really good, and might be nice with a gelato. (Or good to eat while you are scooping the gelato into bowls.)

  16. Hello there Esther! We have enjoyed this wonderful soup with some crusty bread, some garlic bread, a green salad, and once, with a fennel and orange salad that I like to make. It may sound strange, but we had the ingredients, and it sounded like a refreshing contrast to the soup. It really worked. Mind you, we did not have all of those at one time. The soup is that good. You’ll be making it more than once, so you can experiment with the sides. Please let everyone know what you decided on, and how you liked it.

  17. The soup is a meal in itself, although I did serve a nice crisp Caesar Salad with it with homemade croutons brushed just with extra virgin olive oil and homemade bacon bits. It complemented the flavors of the soup beautifully. It is a delicious soup, I am sure you will enjoy it. Just adjust the amount of pasta you add to the soup. (I decreased the amount; see my earlier comment.) Hope you enjoy it, Esther.

  18. It sounds wonderful! Do you think I can make a day or two ahead? Could I refrig or freeze? I would not add the pasta until just before serving… Having company and would love to make ahead…Any suggestions for something else to serve along w/this? I thought salad…crisp baguette…pizza? Anyone have any thoughts to share?

    1. Morning, Esther. This soup keeps beautifully in the fridge, so yes, as long as you keep the pasta separate, I think you’ll be quite fine. I wouldn’t freeze it, not if you’re holding it for just a day or two. As for what to serve alongside, I think some lovely artisanal bread would be sufficient, although let’s open this up to everyone else who’s made this recipe before…suggestions?

    2. Good morning Esther, I would go with some nice crispy baguette as you suggested. A simple salad to start is always a nice thing too. This soup is a meal in itself so I would not bother with anything else than that! Cannot wait for you to try it as I am sure you will absolutely love it.

  19. Amazing recipe!! Thanks for this. I have a feeling this will become a regular on the dinner table. The only thing I have to add is that when I have pasta with my soup, I typically make it on the side and throw it into the bowls before serving. I never finish my soup in one go. And then I don’t run the risk of soggy pasta floating around.

    Thank you again so much for this delicious recipe. I love it and I love discovering your site.

    1. May, welcome! And thank you, that’s terrific advice, makes perfect sense. As someone else commented just yesterday, keeping the pasta separate from the soup ’till the last minute ensures that any leftovers are equally lovely and not at all gummy. We look forward to hearing your response to other recipes…

  20. This was a very delicious and flavorful soup. Like the tester I was a little concerned about
    sautéing the pancetta for only three minutes. I usually caramelise mine. But nevertheless the
    flavors and the textures were quite right in this one. I had just opened a can of tomato paste for another recipe which called only for a tablespoon, so I threw in about three tbsps of tomato paste in there in addition to the three tablespoons of tomatoes. That did the trick. The only gaffe was that I did add two cups of pasta, which was way too much. It became more like a thick stew very quickly. And 14 ounces of potatoes were two medium ones. I had just made homemade chicken stock so that indeed dada great flavor to the soup. This is an easy recipe to whip up even on a week night. The only change I would make is to add way less pasta, maybe a cup, and the addition of tomato paste.

    1. Appreciate you sharing your tweaking, Sita. It seems everyone we know who’s made this classic Italian soup has their own way with it, and I love that it’s so eminently variable and yet so unfailingly pleasing. And yes, made-from-scratch stock makes EVERYTHING better, does it not?

      1. Yes Renee nothing like homemade chicken or veggie stock to make everything just perfect.

  21. There are many times when I think I must have been an Italian in a previous life.
    When I arrived at work today and I saw this recipe on the LC feed, it just felt like home. I needed something to help decompress after a particularly rough week and the thought of making this soup got me through yet another bumpy day. I knew that we had most of the ingredients at home but I wasn’t sure if we had everything in the right quantities. We only had 5 oz of pancetta (Fresh and Easy’s standard size) so I based the quantities of the other ingredients on the pancetta quantity. I had a leek and some carrots from the garden. I didn’t have enough chicken stock so I added some beef broth to that. I used a Yukon type potato and broke farfalle into smaller pieces. I used both Parmesan and Pecorino Romano cheese. It all came together and tasted like heaven. The weekend is here! Ciao e grazie.

    1. Thomas, I can think of no lovelier way to start the weekend than reading your comment. Thanks for taking the time to write. Love your spirit of innovation. (Clearly you must have been an Italian in a previous life.) And may we just add, building everything else around the amount of pork in a recipe is pretty much a rule to live by, I think.

  22. This soup rocks! It made a surprisingly large amount. Guess I didn’t picture the amounts correctly. I didn’t have pancetta but did have some left over ham from a boiled dinner, so slivered some of that and added a drop or two of liquid smoke (Be cautious with it). Like one of the testers said I really didn’t want open a can of tomatoes for the little bit needed, so I stewed a couple fresh tomatoes that were getting “passay” (passé or past their best). Since there are just two of us I had leftovers. I learned from experience of having bad soup leftovers to store any pasta soup seperately. It only takes a couple minutes to pour it through a strainer and store solids and broth separately. It was as good for lunch today! Thanks for the great recipe. Before I make it again I will make sure I have pancetta!

    1. Judy, so glad you enjoyed this recipe, and what a great tip for separating the solids from the broth.

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